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Published 12/1/2009

Tips for holding effective practice meetings

Is your orthopaedic group spending more time at meetings and accomplishing less? These six tips can shift the balance.

Schedule carefully
The larger the group, the more important it is to schedule meetings far in advance. Hold meetings on different days or times so that no one doctor is regularly inconvenienced (or unable to attend) due to office, surgery, or call schedules.

Set an agenda
About a week before the meeting, have your practice manager poll all members of the group and develop an agenda. Send the agenda to everyone by e-mail 3 days before the meeting. Knowing that a pet project will be discussed is sure to increase attendance.

Establish and follow a protocol
One person (the president or managing partner) should serve as chair of the meeting. Adherence to the agenda is mandatory, unless an emergency arises.

To ensure that everyone has a voice, establish a written protocol for voting. Vote on every issue of importance and use the protocol to determine how many people must vote to approve different levels of expenditures. If someone fails to attend a meeting and doesn’t give his or her proxy to someone else, that doctor basically has no right to complain if the decision isn’t what he or she wanted. This can significantly reduce complaints and, combined with a scheduling protocol, simultaneously improve attendance.

Focus on the big picture
In many practices, the principals do not review every element of the financial statement at every meeting. Instead, they identify key numbers and ratios and focus on them. (See “
Dashboard gives you the big picture”) Wherever possible, don’t look just at year-to-date numbers but also at rolling 6- and 12-month averages.

“Hear me out”
Everyone should get a chance to speak, but no one should monopolize the conversation. A strong chair will carefully allocate time so that no one talks too much and everyone is heard.

Minutes are important
The minutes should reflect not only what happened, but also the spirit of the meeting. In some practices, both the board secretary and the practice administrator take minutes and compare them before they’re finalized and distributed via e-mail. Any disagreements are decided by the president.

Taking these simple steps will help make your meetings shorter and more productive; they may also significantly reduced the meetings’ level of intensity when important matters come up for discussion. As a result, your partners will feel more responsible for the future of the practice, and your practice administrator will be happier and more productive.

Editor’s Note: The AAOS Online Practice Management Center includes information regarding “best practices” in place at various orthopaedic offices around the country. Although a course of action that worked in one situation may not work in another, the practice management center is a source of information and ideas, such as these tips for holding effective practice meetings.